Microsoft has been investigating three suspects for the past year in what the company claims was being used in a click fraud scheme. It seems the trio set up dummy sites to redirect traffic to auto insurance advertisements which they then collected on clicks that were made to specific ads. The trio netted about $250K before getting caught.

In a recent article it states that:

Microsoft investigators noticed there was an oddly similar pattern in a seemingly unrelated area, advertisements for the game World of Warcraft. Though investigators weren’t sure how the two were connected, they began to see some similarities. Although traffic appeared to come from different computers, it was actually coming from two proxy servers, which mask the original address of a click.

Microsoft began trying to stop the suspect traffic, but a little game evolved. Microsoft would block a server, or block a certain level of traffic for those advertisements, but whoever was on the other side of the clicks kept finding new ways around the company’s fixes.

“They’re basically just trying to figure out what our filters and technology tools are going to flag, and seeing if they can change their thresholds to get around it,” Mr. Cranton said. “Then we figure out what they’ve done and we change our thresholds, and it goes back and forth.”

Microsoft didn’t know why someone would be interested in both World of Warcraft and auto insurance ads, though, until a third party told investigators that an advertiser for World of Warcraft keywords named Eric Lam was also taking a fee for directing traffic to auto insurance sites. Investigators figured out that seven different accounts, registered under different individual and company names, were linked to Mr. Lam and two other defendants, Gordon Lam and Melanie Suen, believed to be Mr. Lam’s brother and mother.

Interesting case and should provide some incentive for Google to look at the same type of fraud.

Comments welcome.